Beyond Hero Mode ++ - How many stars is possible?

Also occurs to me we could actually field-test most of these sorts of proposed tweaks with some very simple mods.


Had been thinking about it when I was originally struggling with the last few stars (that reminds me, do you by any chance have the original thread saved? it used to be at ).

  • I’m a bit against level cap boost as it nullifies the already existing challenges (that said, some are so difficult that it might not matter that much).
  • I’m quite intrigued by the extra Hero-Mode only item idea (or maybe something you’d only get for that specific battle on Expert). From the top of my head you lose The Way Out because of no AoE, the last two battles on Expert simply have slightly higher level monsters than you can handle, DPS is slightly lacking. No idea if you remember but the only way (so far) to do Zelemir’s Army Expert+ was to use explosive healer-recalls, so I’d say that is the monster level you can not beat normally but what is possible with some exploits.

I’m going to whip out my saved game and see what I can do, and think about what the smallest tweak could be that would make these levels beatable with the Original Six (Seven).

Cool ideas! And to be clear do you consider the use of the “H-bomb” Healer + Explosive start “exploit” as an off-limits tool or not for your standard of “beatable” ?

As for the original forum thread, it SHOULD be in here, but my importer tool wasn’t cool enough to retrofit the old links. I’ll have to dig through the archives.


I’m kind of split on whether something that can only realistically be won with the h-bomb counts as “good design” or not.
I did some tries with The Way Out (where the h-bomb is out of the question, because you don’t have a healer, chain lightning is more cost-efficient than knight explosions) - got to the last wave spawning before dying a rather horrible death a few times.

H-Bomb FEELS bad, and even though of course I think if it’s there then by all means use it, patching it out (by adding a cooldown to it or something) would be a better solution I think. Let me put it in another way: (chain) lightning as a spammy thing feels right, and the h-bomb as a spammy thing feels wrong for me, mostly because of the compulsory pause and having to do the calculation of how many times to drop before each bombing.

That said I still don’t have any specific advice. Contrary to my previous post I did get to the point where Azra’s AoE potential (max crystal and fire and chain lightning) seemed adequate and I “just” got overwhelmed the usual way. I was thinking of a battle-specific item or spell, trying to base it around the fact that there are now only 3 companions remaining of the 7. Frenzy, Healing, Crystal, and Dragon Fire are all tied to missing companions, Lightning to Azra and Pushback to Markos, so maybe reduced Pushback cooldown for the battle? On the other hand it would kind of mandate an Azra spec which I’m against. I was also thinking about an extra book - I’ve been using slow end and chain lightning so far - chain lightning seems mandatory so it would have to be better than slow end which is one of the best books, unfortunately. I was also considering adding a boost 6 for this battle only however that’s quite a bit anti-canon as it is supposed to be the “easy” final battle; the rational but cowardly choice. Also, I imagine it would be a pain in the ass to code and the UI doesn’t really have space for it.

I’ll keep experimenting and will let you know should any bulbs light up above my head.

I think the simplest way to make all of the levels possible would be to add an Azra book that boosts her spells based on the number of characters on the board.

Another decent way would be to add a Markos specific weapon that makes his attack AOE (and possibly increases range by 0.4). Unfortunately, this would make too many challenges way too easy.

A third option would be to remove the thorns from Cultist Priest+. This would probably make every level except “The Way Out” Extreme (TWOE) possible.

I feel like H-bombing is an exploit, but if you like it, you could make the explosion damage scale with the cost of what you summon… so that knight bombing would be better than spamming chain lightning. That might be enough for TWOE to be possible.

I’ll not have time to play in the next couple weeks, but after that, I’ll finish the possible levels with starting 6 and try the impossible ones a few times and see if I can come up with better ideas.

It turns out that The Face of Madness (Extreme) is actually possible, though very difficult and annoying. An easy way to make it a lot less annoying and slightly less difficult would be to switch waves 3 and 4. This gives more time for Wrenna to slap the Abomination+ around before the Death Worm+ get in the way.

Here’s my setup:

Azra: Book of Blood, Furious Start. Max the red spells and put remainder of points in Healing.
Slak: Evni+. Max Slash, Double Hit, Flurry, Madness, Swiftness, Rage. Remainder of points in Resilience.
Ketta: No Deep Shot or Poison Shot. Only 1 point in Triple Shot (and keep it turned off), 5 points in Piercing Shot, everything else is maxed. In retrospect, Ignoring Spread Shot and maxing Poison Shot (only 3 points in Piercing Shot) might have worked better.
Bakal: Obvious
Wrenna: Beast Weapon+. Only 1 point in Sleet (and keep it turned off), 5 in Ice Spear and max everything else.
Markos: Eye of the Flame+. Skip Cleave. 1 point in Hard Knock, Stun Stab, and Armor Pierce. Max everything else except Armor Training, which is level 3.
Niru: 1 point in Epic Halitosis and Fatten Up, 4 points in Roar. Max everything else. Remember to disable his other attacks when you want to Nom. I did a LOT of micro-ing…although in retrospect, maybe the “CHEAPEST Technique” target option would have taken care of that.

Anyway, attached is a picture of the basic setup. Wrenna moves the the (1) spot when the Abomination+/Monstrosity+ get out of range. Slak moves to the (2) when convenient or if you are really worried. Markos moves to (3) in the direst of circumstances. Moving Wrenna happens every set of 6 waves except the first. Try not to do other moves… you’ll need the psi.

Here’s how it works:

Place Slak, Ketta, and Bakal immediately, DO NOT CAST FRENZY. FRENZY IS FOR KILLING ABOMINATIONS. When Snake Knight+ comes around, place Markos -make sure he has “strongest” priority. Then place Wrenna when things start coming out of her lane. Use knockback and then dragon fire to get past Snake Knight+ and Worm+ with a minimal amount of psi, but save your Crystal for the Worm+ that spawn from the Monstrosity+ that spawn from the Abomination+. Frenzy when the Abomination+ spawns. Use some lightning on the Death Worm+ as needed. Your goal is to get through the first six waves using a minimum of psi on lightning so as to boost Niru as much as possible as soon as possible.

Once Niru is fully boosted, move Slak around to follow Zelemir, and cast lightning on him as much as possible. I think I did around 3 million damage with lightning. Make sure you have enough Psi to move Wrenna around, or the Worm+ spam will be too much. Keep frenzy for killing the Abomination+/Monstrosity+/Worm+. Crystal, too. Dragon Fire is useful too, a little… though honestly I think I only cast it twice because I was holding it in reserve for emergencies. I won around wave 45. The really hard part is using enough Lightning on enemies so you don’t get overrun, but not so much that you don’t have enough Psi to do all the many things you need to do.

Sorry for the extreme detail, but I figure since apparently nobody has done it before, the detail was appropriate.

Next I’ll try to figure out mods/tweaks that would make “The Way Out” and “The God-King Walks Again” possible on Extreme. I think TGKWAE will be easier to tweak than TWOE… but we shall see!

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Major f*cking kudos and many many hats off! …only two levels left :slight_smile:

Wow, I need to check in more often. This is super epic.

As I get closer to releasing DQ1HD, I’m going to start working on a mod file for DQ1-legacy that tests some of our hypotheses about little tweaks we could make to make ultra super duper hero mode possible. Feel free to put out suggested balance tweaks as bullet points or whatever and I’ll collect them up when the time comes.

Here are a few suggestions to make “Face of Madness (Extreme)” a bit more approachable. I tried it again and failed miserably 3x in a row, so I think that even though it is possible, it is still unrealistically hard.

  • Change Wave 3 to have 12 enemies instead of 10 {free psi, longer waves}
  • Change Wave 2 to have level 65 instead of 66 {Worms SUCK, and even this little bit helps}
  • Switch waves 3 and 4 so that Wrenna has more time to wreck the Abomination without interference.

Using the setup I described above and these modifications, I won first try and it was merely absurdly difficult. Suggestions for “The Way Out (Extreme)” will be coming soon, but that level requires some bigger modifications. “The God-King Walks Again (Extreme)” is still out of reach for me.

A side question for Lars - a couple years ago, Coyot indicated that you wanted the game to be playthroughable on Normal with no grinding. Is this still a goal? It would be a fun challenge to figure out how to make that possible.

RE: Normal with no grinding – that was so long ago I honestly forget what the original intent was and it depends on the definition of “grinding” – does one mean:

  1. No replaying already-beaten missions?
  2. No going back to play advanced/extreme missions, ie, plodding forward on normal ONLY?

I think I was mostly thinking along the lines of No. 1, whereas coyot might have been thinking about No. 2. As is, the game’s progression is designed to kind of encourage you to go back and try advanced/extreme lest you miss out on that “feature” of extra missions (but also has the accessibility options and casual mode, as well as “settle for a blue star” in case you don’t want to).

It (def. no 2) does still sound like a fun challenge and I’m interested in it as an intellectual/design exercise but I won’t twist myself into knots if it proves to be a huge headache.

I’m absolutely swamped with work right now but I am keeping an eye on this topic, and will share my Way Out thoughts (I can get to the last wave spawning with chain lightning and slow end and then die miserably). Never tried the book of blood. Myrddinemrys’ suggestions sound awesome as it’s rather a tweak that only fixes the current battle rather than a boost that would have potentially far-reaching implications.

Coyot’s normal playthrough, with which I’ve fiddled a bit myself: Do every level exactly once, perfect, NG and NG+, on Normal. You are allowed (but not required) to do bonus challenges when they become available, and you can (and are required to) do the NG+ side quests whenever you feel like it. So basically, you end the game with the 67 normal gold stars.

Impossible levels are the sheep+ (regen and fast sheep kill you) and Zelemir’s Army+ and from then on, as far as I remember. The whole playmode is incredibly challenging, but allows for great strategic thought and foreplanning, both with hero-hiring and with equipment buying choices. Also, finally you spec members of the same class differently. It is also a big lesson in psi management.

I definitely like the idea of adding very small tweaks to various levels. That seems like the lightest possible touch without massively undoing balance elsewhere.

I definitely meant number 2 - just plod forward on normal, you can only go back on the world map to visit shops…

Been thinking more about challenge modes. At the very least we’ll have an option for Hero Mode which will work like this:

  1. You can explicitly select it when you start your game, and this will lock hiring new characters.
  2. If you try to hire a new character, it will ask you whether you want to “break” your hero mode attempt.
  3. If you don’t opt into hero mode, but you haven’t yet hired a generic, you can still turn on the hero mode lock.
  4. Regardless of whether the lock is on, you’re eligible for the achievements as long as there’s no generics in your party.

@coyot, can you give so more details on your “no-grinding” challenge? Spell out the rules? I’m thinking about how I might implement it as a first-class challenge mode that you can set for yourself if it’s not absolutely insane to implement.

Would that hero mode lock be able to unlock certain bonuses? I am still playing around with tweaks for The Way Out (Extreme) that would make it possible in Hero Mode, and it’s just not possible with only “minor tweaks” that would leave the regular mode difficulty about the same. (The God-King Walks Again is a LOT worse) For TWOE, I created a mod with a massively powerful poison weapon for Ketta (+15% chance, x5 effect) and the level was just about doable**. If “Hero Mode” version of weapons could be created (or a higher level cap for hero mode), then that makes retuning levels a lot easier, because you don’t have to worry so much about retaining the standard mode difficulty curve.

As per the “no grinding rules,” here are the ones that make sense to me:

  1. -100% scrap and exp for failure.
  2. Play each level only on Normal Difficulty and win each level only once.
  3. Side quests and Challenges can be completed whenever desired (but still subject to rules 1 and 2)

I tried this and found it immensely difficult, particularly because I always wanted more scrap to recruit more guys.

** Let’s be honest, though… poison for the ranger is ridiculously weak and should be buffed anyway.

myrddinemrys nailed it :smile:

Optionally you could allow map replaying “just for fun” (-100% scrap and exp if you’ve already beaten the map).

The only thing that is somewhat questionable is respeccing the characters, but it’s mainly related to the first case of dark enemies that is likely to catch you with your pants down if you’re new to the game.
Which is something that has always irked me, IMO the healers should convert from random lighting to a fixed percentage effect, but that’s for a separate debate…

Hey there, so some more thoughts on things.

I suppose we could add some global properties that accompany the “lock”, whether it’s Hero Mode or No-Grinding Mode, or whatever the challenge is. This would let us retune the balance without having to worry about messing with the normal difficulty curve, although it does create the situation where now you really have to commit from the start for it to make all that much sense, which I suppose is okay (maybe even preferable, it might free the player up from being anxious about other challenge modes and signal they should try them later?)

As for the rules to “no-grinding” mode, I assume there’s also an implicit “Only Perfect counts, Pass == Failure?”

My gut tells me that a hypothetical “no-grinding” challenge is a bit further from being ready than a 100% hero mode and would need more than just a few tweaks. For one, there’s a few other issues I’ve long been looking at addressing.

  1. Recruiting – I don’t think hiring dudes at LVL 1 makes much sense. I’m not entirely sure what the solution is but they should come in at something reasonably close to the rest of the party’s level, basically whatever doesn’t penalize you too much for your timing.

  2. Default XP/Scrap rules – I think for the HD re-release I’m strongly considering making the default rule 0% penalty for absence, as absence penalties just encourage you to summon all your guys at the end of the battle. I’ll keep the switches in.

  3. XP/Scrap rewards for “leapfrogging” – If you beat a mission on a certain difficulty and it wasn’t beaten yet on a lower difficulty, you get cascading rewards for each difficulty. However, you only get battle XP/Scrap from the actual monsters you beat in the level. Normally this isn’t a big deal because the game was built with non-scarce XP/Scrap. However, in no-grinding mode, unless passes are not allowed, the dominant strategy is to intentionally let Azra get hit once every time before perfecting a level on normal so you can maximize your rewards. So, not sure what I’ll do with this.

No-Grinding is a particularly tough thing to make official because it’s so different from the regular spirit of the game because of the inherent scarcity of rewards, which means it’s entirely possible to get “stuck” by making a strategic mistake. Even in a hard-as-nails Hero Mode, you can keep trying without getting boxed in.

That doesn’t mean I’m against it in principle, it’d definitely be different and that’s good for an optional challege mode, just thinking out loud about what design issues we’d have to overcome.

Not necessarily. The player will generally want to get perfect for the extra reward, right? So they’re motivated enough to go for it, but it shouldn’t be a necessity.

This is something I always wanted. While in the long run it almost doesn’t matter (new recruits will very soon catch up and will trail Slak just by one or two levels), where it matters most is i.e. when you meet the dark enemies first and get pwned. Now you realize you need more healers, but more level 1 healers are not the answer :).

So, make the new recruits get X% of Azra’s levels, where X could very well be fully adjustable in game properties in general.

2. Default XP/Scrap rules – I think for the HD re-release I’m strongly considering making the default rule 0% penalty for absence, as absence penalties just encourage you to summon all your guys at the end of the battle. I’ll keep the switches in.[/quote]

Yes, please. Absence penalty only achieves one thing, motivating players to do various shenanigans at the end. The only two good solutions are a) no absence penalty b) performace-based XP, but the latter is very hard to get right especially for support characters.

3. XP/Scrap rewards for “leapfrogging” – If you beat a mission on a certain difficulty and it wasn’t beaten yet on a lower difficulty, you get cascading rewards for each difficulty. However, you only get battle XP/Scrap from the actual monsters you beat in the level. Normally this isn’t a big deal because the game was built with non-scarce XP/Scrap. However, in no-grinding mode, unless passes are not allowed, the dominant strategy is to intentionally let Azra get hit once every time before perfecting a level on normal so you can maximize your rewards. So, not sure what I’ll do with this.[/quote]

I probably miss the point here. One win means one win. If you do a pass, you can’t go for perfect since you’ve already beaten the map, pass or perfect.

That’s why we have save games to make backups of :). If you’re possessed enough to go for this kind of game, you should have the willpower to do backups to revert to, or play again. In practice, however, the only BIG stopping point for me were the dark creeps… they first appear on a very ugly map and going for perfect was a rotten business with one healer - but to some extent this could be alleviated if you could come up with a completely different mechanic for dark creeps vs. healers, one that would on average produce similar damage reduction but in a much more reliable manner.

What I like the most is converting the level 2 attack to aura - making dark creeps under healer range automatically lit up, and making level 4 attack add a permanent / long lasting light that would stick to them even outside the range. Power of the aura could determine either dodge reduction, or remove dodge permanently but compensate with a damage reduction instead, although that might be a bit hard to “explain”.

Hey, thanks very much for creating this thread. It is great :slight_smile:

I finally earned 198 gold stars in Hero Mode++. I am somewhat relieved to hear others agree that The Way Out Extreme is too difficult to pass - that level was quite frustrating! :wink:

One question for those who have done this - did you also beat all of the bonus levels? I have beaten Challenge 1, 2, 3, 4, and Endless 1. Challenge 3 was a bit tricky - I had to use Psi Shield and Slow End, and use lightning on many of the phasing zombies. Two zombies still made it through to hit Azra, but thanks to Psi Shield she still had perfect health. I haven’t managed to beat the last challenge level, though.

Glad I could help :slight_smile: Out of curiosity, did you use my strategy on The Face of Madness, or did you come up with another one?

Also, I refuse to use H-bombs; did you manage to do Endless 1 without them? That would be quite an achievement. I never worked on the challenges very much; I have only done 1, 2, and 4.